Clinical narcissism is an unhealthy level of self-love, to the exclusion of all others and their needs. When the condition evolves into a more psychopathic and violent form, therapists call this aggressive narcissism, or malignant narcissism. Some of the most notorious killers in human history have been grouped into this category of anti-social behavior disorders, from serial killer Ted Bundy to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. These people have taken sadistic pleasure in exerting personal superiority over those they perceive as inferior.
A little narcissism, literally self-love, is a natural part of being human and forms the cornerstone of healthy self-esteem. Too much narcissism, however, is a different issue. Someone considered self-involved or conceited can be considered narcissistic, but may not be a clinical narcissist. This take a certain lack of caring for the needs of others and a desire to exploit people for personal gain. If these attributes are prevalent, a therapist is likely to diagnose a patient with having narcissistic personality disorder.
It takes destructive tendencies for people with narcissistic personality disorder to be diagnosed with aggressive narcissism — a common trait of the violent psychopath. This carnivorous spirit is marked by a compulsion to hurt and manipulate others, either physically or mentally. The malignant narcissist seeks an illusory sense of exaggerated power, gained only through humiliating and asserting dominance over others.
Aggressive narcissism can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Some, like serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, may harm animals, then graduate to human sacrifice. Others stay shy of murder, but constantly deride those closest to them or beat family members behind closed doors. Narcissists, in general, tend to be of above-average intelligence and are more prone to enjoy activities like hunting or shooting ranges. They may tend to gravitate toward careers like teaching or even law enforcement, which allows them to assert authority over others on a regular basis.
Psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm was the first to label this violent turn "malignant narcissism," in the 1960s. Since then, several studies and psychoanalytical works have been devoted to the disorder, which combines paranoia, narcissism, evil tendencies and selfish aims. Research indicates that urban environments are twice as likely to house people with narcissistic personality disorder, which men are five times more likely to develop than women. Aggressive narcissism also is more prevalent among those addicted to alcohol and other drugs as well as those with criminal histories.